Author Topic: ACA & Smartphones  (Read 3585 times)

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Offline SlowAndSlower

ACA & Smartphones
« on: April 18, 2013, 05:23:44 pm »
I am preparing to start the TransAm and in the process looking to use my smartphone for various tasks. One of those tasks I wanted to do is read the map addendum for the next day. I used my phones Chrome browser to open the ACA website to do that. I was amazed that it didn't recognize that I was using a mobile device. I thought with the new website that surely it would support mobile devices better. So am I the only one thinking that the  ACA website ought to be mobile friendly?

I also suggested that an article or a column on touring with and using a smartphone would possibly be more interesting than another bicycle review. It just seems that there is so much versatility with a smartphone that I was unaware of until I began delving into the subject. Seems like there are new apps and hardware coming out everyday that could pertain to bicycle touring.

Perhaps we could get a forum section going or expand the GPS section.

Offline sspeed

Re: ACA & Smartphones
« Reply #1 on: April 19, 2013, 11:01:09 pm »
I use my phone a lot for navigation when riding around town.  That said, the battery life on my phone isn't conducive to relying on it out on the road.  I have my days planned out as GPX files.  I'll just convert them to TCX and upload them to my Garmin Edge for navigation.  I've also done that around town and it works great.

Offline bogiesan

Re: ACA & Smartphones
« Reply #2 on: April 21, 2013, 10:02:54 am »
Thorough, practical, real world experiences relying on various phones for navigation, communication, photos, journaling and entertainment would, indeed, make a series of great articles.

Confirming the battery issues but I think they are more complicated. My iPhone 4s in GPS mode, running MapMyRide, takes the battery from 100% to under 40% in less than four hours, much more quickly below 45F. A good day of touring can be eight to twelve hours between overnights so the phone will be dead long before camp is reached.

The expense and mass of auxiliary battery packs are not trivial. You need at least two aux battery packs, one hooked to the phone and one to charge the phone at the end of the day's ride. But two packs are not really adequate; you need three battery units: one to run the phone on the bike, one to recharge the phone at night and one that is either topped off or that is being recharged by mains or solar either on the bike or in camp. If you have only two packs, you cannot safely assume you will be able to recharge the other one so, when you get into camp, you can easily have two depleted battery packs.

Solar is not yet viable if you depend on your phone for everything, just do the math. A panel that can fully recharge a pack of 4-AAs or a li-ion pack while riding is both big and heavy. And solar is not magical. The panel requires lots of direct sunlight to do its job.

A bike-powered generator would be my recommendation but I don't like the idea of a power hub. I have no experience with bike generators yet. 

My Goal Zero Guide+10 battery pack (4-AAs, heavy duty case, circuitry and LED lamp) is seven ounces. CArrying three of those, plus the big Goal Zero #7 panel, is more than two pounds. My experiments are conducted just riding around the valley but I can tell you it's a hassle to keep the batts in proper rotation and the solar panel fully exposed on the bike. My recumbent has more places to rig the panel than conventional bikes but the thing is not small and, no matter where I put it, it's always in the way. Also, even in Idaho, insolation simply is not reliable as a power source.
I play go. I use Macintosh. Of course I ride a recumbent

Offline SlowAndSlower

Re: ACA & Smartphones
« Reply #3 on: April 22, 2013, 04:14:09 pm »
In the GPS forum section I posted on my first experience with Cue Sheet. You use it with your RideWithGPS account maps and it downloads the Queue Sheet. Using just the GPS gives you voice directions. I am still evaluating it but it looks promising as I can shutdown WIFI and 4G LTE to conserve battery and it still functions.

Thanks for the pointer to GoalZero. I've done some research  and am interested in looking at the Switch 8 which uses lithium-ion and weighs 3.2 oz for each charge unit ($40).

Offline Old Guy New Hobby

Re: ACA & Smartphones
« Reply #4 on: April 23, 2013, 08:59:26 am »
Maybe I'm missing something or maybe I just don't get it. There are a lot of rugged, weatherproof, water resistant GPS devices available. Their batteries easily last 2 days of hard riding. Prices can get up there, but a dedicated GPS generally maxes out at half the real price of a smart phone.

On the other hand, a smart phone has limited battery life, would be severely damaged in a good rain, and would likely get a cracked screen if it ever fell off the bike, or even if the cyclist took a tumble. The bicycle phone mounts I have seen look suspect. Most of the mapping and routing options are web-based, which requires significant data use. Of course, this last point is not important if one already has a hefty data plan for other purposes. (I don't.) Even without the cost of the data plan, the value of web-based services is limited when no cell signal is available, as can happen on tour.

Having a phone on a tour is important. I own one phone, which is a smart phone. But it is a bit of a pain due to my desire to protect it. To answer the phone, I have to pull over, open the water proof handlebar bag, unzip the pocket, pull the phone out, and punch the screen. My chances of answering a call are about 50 - 50. Most times, I would rather continue the ride and look at the voice mail later on.

Being a technology enthusiast and a cycling enthusiast can be a lot of fun. There are great synergies available. But sometimes the combination just doesn't make sense, at least to me.

Offline SlowAndSlower

Re: ACA & Smartphones
« Reply #5 on: April 23, 2013, 10:39:30 am »
On the other hand,  would be severely damaged in a good rain,  or even if the cyclist took a tumble. The bicycle phone mounts I have seen look suspect. Most of the mapping and routing options are web-based, which requires significant data use. Of course, this last point is not important if one already has a hefty data plan for other purposes. (I don't.) Even without the cost of the data plan, the value of web-based services is limited when no cell signal is available, as can happen on tour.
Technology changes fast.
 "a smart phone has limited battery life" my Razr Maxx has about 21 hours talk time.
 "would be severely damaged in a good rain" Razr Maxx is fairly water resistant. You Too videos of them still working in a bath tub of water.
 "and would likely get a cracked screen if it ever fell off the bike." I've dropped mime on a stone floor from 4 feet and it came out just fine with the OtterBox case I have on it.
 "The bicycle phone mounts I have seen look suspect." Same ones that they use on motorcycles. Seem plenty rugged to me. BTW Cue Sheet runs just fine in the jersey pocket. No mount needed.
 "Most of the mapping and routing options are web-based." lots of non-internet based options, CoPilot, Cue Sheet, Open Systems Mapping to name a couple. All these run just fine without a signal.

You illustrate the point of the OP which is not everyone, including me, are aware of all the options for using a smartphone. Hence the suggestion for ACA to address the issue. I agree about whether it makes sense or not. I am still trying to figure that out. Right now, for me, things are tilting in that direction.
« Last Edit: April 23, 2013, 10:49:59 am by SlowAndSlower »

Offline staehpj1

Re: ACA & Smartphones
« Reply #6 on: April 23, 2013, 10:57:26 am »
Maybe I'm missing something or maybe I just don't get it. There are a lot of rugged, weatherproof, water resistant GPS devices available. Their batteries easily last 2 days of hard riding. Prices can get up there, but a dedicated GPS generally maxes out at half the real price of a smart phone.

On the other hand, a smart phone has limited battery life, would be severely damaged in a good rain, and would likely get a cracked screen if it ever fell off the bike, or even if the cyclist took a tumble. The bicycle phone mounts I have seen look suspect. Most of the mapping and routing options are web-based, which requires significant data use. Of course, this last point is not important if one already has a hefty data plan for other purposes. (I don't.) Even without the cost of the data plan, the value of web-based services is limited when no cell signal is available, as can happen on tour.

Having a phone on a tour is important. I own one phone, which is a smart phone. But it is a bit of a pain due to my desire to protect it. To answer the phone, I have to pull over, open the water proof handlebar bag, unzip the pocket, pull the phone out, and punch the screen. My chances of answering a call are about 50 - 50. Most times, I would rather continue the ride and look at the voice mail later on.

Being a technology enthusiast and a cycling enthusiast can be a lot of fun. There are great synergies available. But sometimes the combination just doesn't make sense, at least to me.

I have to disagree on a few points:
  • Battery Life - My smart phone battery lasts days and days because it is turned off most of the time or at least in airplane mode (the GPS can be turned on when in airplane mode).  My handheld GPS, if I use it, is on all day and the battery lasts a day and a half.
  • Damage or Weather Issues - You just need to give any device the level of protection it needs it isn't that onerous.
  • Answering the Phone - It would never even occur to me to have my phone in a mode where it is on the cellular network unless I am making a call.  Why on earth would I want to answer a phone on tour.  I seldom do that even at home :)
  • Data Plan Issues - Yes they are expensive, but I have it already.  As far as working when on tour...  I typically have WiFi at some point most days or at least every few days.  At a minimum the services in question are available then.

I do agree that it may not be the best choice for everyone.

FWIW, before I got the smartphone I didn't usually take any GPS receiver on tour, despite the fact that I owned one, knew how to use it, and had done so extensively in other pass times like hiking, geocaching, and sailing.

Offline sspeed

Re: ACA & Smartphones
« Reply #7 on: April 23, 2013, 12:27:45 pm »
To the OP, I know you said you weren't keen on dynamo hubs, but have you seen the Luxos U?  USB charging integrated in to the headlight.  People have commented that they've used it to charge their phone while being used for navigation and their phone was at 100% when done riding.

I still can't be sold on using a phone for navigation on tour.  I like using my phone over our car's nav system because searches and manual entry are a lot easier, but once on the bike with a set route I'd rather use my Edge 500 over the phone any day.  Sure I dropped my Samsung S3 from 7 feet up twice and it didn't break, then it fell out of my pocket a foot off the ground and cracked.  Battery life on it is ok, but no way it's going to last a day of navigating with GPS on, the Edge will last about 14 hours.  Worrying about charging something while riding that I "need" while riding isn't a worry I want.

That said, I know there are some people that love it, why not have a section on tips and tricks for using it.

http://www.peterwhitecycles.com/b&m-hl.asp

Offline jsieber

Re: ACA & Smartphones
« Reply #8 on: April 23, 2013, 07:13:59 pm »
Great conversation and debate about the use of smart phones while on tour. The gear section of the forums are a great place for these types of conversations. If multiple threads on the topic keep coming up, we can definitely add an additional board for tech type conversations. Currently, most of these discussions takes place on the GPS board, but we can see how things develop and create a new board if necessary.

In the meantime, here is a recent article from the CTC about touring with a smart phone instead of paper maps in France.
http://www.ctc.org.uk/file/public/201305054-feature-touring-technology.pdf

Offline Old Guy New Hobby

Re: ACA & Smartphones
« Reply #9 on: April 24, 2013, 08:17:03 pm »
slowandslower and staehpj1 bring up interesting points. But comparing GPS battery life with the GPS on full time to smart phone battery life with the phone off or in standby is not kosher. Likewise comparing the sturdiness of a naked GPS to a phone in an expensive protective case. With capacitance touch screens, weather protection can mean the inability to register screen taps. And purchasing a phone-based mapping program adds cost to the smart phone. Still, I would be interested in hearing the experiences of those who use a smart phone as their primary navigation device -- both the good points and the challenges they faced.

Quote
Technology changes fast.

+1 to that. GPS manufactures better pay attention, because their units have some significant disadvantages, especially in the are of screen readability and the ability to communicate with computers in a reasonable manner. I do believe that the $25 Raspberry Pi has more processing power than most GPS units. Also, the PC software Garmin offers to support their GPS units is so difficult to use that I gave up trying to use it long ago. One gets the idea that Garmin's main concern is the Digital Rights Management of their maps. I don't mean to pick on Garmin. The others are probably about the same. It's just that my experience is with Garmin.
« Last Edit: April 24, 2013, 08:18:55 pm by Old Guy New Hobby »

Offline staehpj1

Re: ACA & Smartphones
« Reply #10 on: April 24, 2013, 08:44:29 pm »
slowandslower and staehpj1 bring up interesting points. But comparing GPS battery life with the GPS on full time to smart phone battery life with the phone off or in standby is not kosher. Likewise comparing the sturdiness of a naked GPS to a phone in an expensive protective case.

Maybe maybe not.  If that is the way you would use the two devices, then I see no foul.  I think that was the case for myself and for slowerandslower.  It may not be for someone else.

Having the cellular function of the phone off greatly extends the battery life even with the GPS turned on.  If you set it to use voice directions and leave the screen off it extends the battery even more.  Still I usually just have it all the way off for the long sections between towns and turn it on when I am near a town and looking for services. or navigating city or town streets.

With capacitance touch screens, weather protection can mean the inability to register screen taps.
It probably can depending on the phone and the case, but I have not found it to be a problem with mine.

And purchasing a phone-based mapping program adds cost to the smart phone.
Decent mapping software came with my last three phones, but it did require a connection to download maps.  I have also been able to find free apps that allow pre-downloading  maps.

Still, I would be interested in hearing the experiences of those who use a smart phone as their primary navigation device -- both the good points and the challenges they faced.

I have not used my as my primary navigation device for an entire trip.  I have used it for sections of a trip and it worked well.  I most often used it with the voice navigation on and the display and cellular off.

I have also used a handheld GPS.  It worked fairly well when a route was pre-planned, but I really found it awkward for improvising routes.  Since I usually wind up improvising at least sections of the route it isn't the best way to go for me.

Oh and since you are doing the TA my suggestion is to not use either, other than maybe briefly if you manage to get lost.  Getting lost on the tA is pretty hard to do using the AC maps though.  On the TA I soon mailed my GPS home since I wasn't using it.
« Last Edit: April 24, 2013, 08:49:54 pm by staehpj1 »

Offline mdxix

Re: ACA & Smartphones
« Reply #11 on: April 24, 2013, 08:56:42 pm »
Currently, most of these discussions takes place on the GPS board, but we can see how things develop and create a new board if necessary.
I agree. Conversations in the GPS board will likely evolve and become more about Electronic Navigation or better yet eNavigation :)

Even GPS units are evolving. Already the Garmin Edge 810 has a bluetooth connection with the iPhone to exchange data, download routes, and send live tracking information.

At some point, a rename of the board may be in order.

Offline adventurepdx

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Re: ACA & Smartphones
« Reply #12 on: April 24, 2013, 09:17:37 pm »
Getting back to one of the points the OP brought up, I think it would be nice to see a mobile-friendly version of the ACA website, though I'm sure that would be quite a bit of work to make it all work.

Offline SlowAndSlower

Re: ACA & Smartphones
« Reply #13 on: April 24, 2013, 11:50:03 pm »
I'm starting the TransAm next week and I am not taking a GPS unit but am taking a smartphone and Nexus 7 tablet. But I will not be using either as my primary navigation tool. The ACA paper maps and a magnetic compass will be primary. What I have done is on RideWithGps set up maps for the first day through Williamsburg and a map through Charlottesville.

I intend to leave the Transam at Chester to catch the Katy. I've mapped the route from just outside of East St. Louis and through St. Louis to the Katy. I will pick up the Santa Fe Trail at Booneville to Independence. From Independence to Baldwin, KS I have mapped that route as well. For these mapped sections I may use CueSheets on either the smartphone or tablet.  These are urban cycling situations and for me the most difficult to navigate as turns can come rapidly and you are dealing with more traffic too.

BTW I will pick up the TransAm again at Larned, KS.

The nice thing about CueSheet Pro is it is voice navigation so the device can be in the handle bar bag covered up. The Nexus 7 should give 8 to 10 hours of use which is more than I can imagine needing using it this way.

Offline staehpj1

Re: ACA & Smartphones
« Reply #14 on: April 25, 2013, 11:28:41 am »
Getting back to one of the points the OP brought up, I think it would be nice to see a mobile-friendly version of the ACA website, though I'm sure that would be quite a bit of work to make it all work.

I would have said that before, but it seems to me that the phones themselves are getting better and better at displaying regular web sites.  Granted my Galaxy Note II is a big honking phone, but it displays the ACA and other regular sites very nicely.